Would Roller Coasters Work on Mars?
Would Roller Coasters Work on Mars?


Over the past few years, there has been increasing
excitement about travelling to Mars, and the possibility of establishing a human colony
on the red planet. With recent breakthroughs in rocket engineering
and the onset of a modern space race, it seems almost inevitable that there will be humans
living there within the next decade. This got me thinking about what a future civilization
might look on Mars once humans become an established species there.
What will our homes look like? How will we travel from one place to another?
How will we grow crops? And how long will it take for Disney to open
the first Martian Disneyland. Even though that one’s a bit of a joke,
I started to wonder what a theme park on Mars might be like, or if it would even be fun
to visit a theme park in low gravity. Many amusement rides utilize gravity in one
way or another, but the gravitational acceleration on Mars is 62% lower than it is on Earth because
of the planet’s smaller size. A falling object on Earth will accelerate
at a rate of 9.81 m/s2, but a falling object on Mars will only accelerate at a rate of
3.71 m/s2. I decided that it might be interesting to
explore how this would impact the physics of theme park rides by taking a look at one
of the most common attractions: The roller coaster. Roller coasters are one of the best examples to use because they are driven entirely by
gravity and the law of conservation of energy. Any roller coaster always starts off by giving
the train a certain amount of energy in one of two ways.
Either with a lift hill, where the train gains gravitational energy according to the equation
Eg=m*g*h, where m is the mass of the train, g is acceleration due to gravity, and h is
the height above a reference point. Or with a launch system, where the train gains
kinetic energy according to the equation Ek=½*m*v2, where m is the mass of the train
and v is the speed of the train. The energy is then converted back and forth
between gravitational and kinetic energy as the train travels around the course, going
up and down through the various elements. Energy is gradually lost due to friction and
drag as the train travels along the track, and the train slowly loses speed throughout
the ride. The speed may also be reduced with braking
systems to dissipate energy more quickly, as is the case for mid-course brake runs,
trim brakes, and the final brake run at the end of a ride.
If we consider a generic roller coaster with a lift hill and a first drop of height h,
then we can equate the gravitational energy at the top of the ride to the kinetic energy
that it will have at the bottom in order to calculate the speed of the train.
Since the mass of the train, m, is present in both equations, it will cancel out on both
sides, indicating that the speed of the ride is not affected by the weight of the train
or the passengers. This only happenes because we are neglecting
energy losses here, otherwise there will be an additional term to deal with and we cannot
cancel out mass. Since we are only looking at one part of the
ride by itself, we are ok to neglect energy losses without introducing too much error
so that we can keep the calculation simple. If we rearrange our equation to solve for
v, then we arrive at a simple expression for the speed of the train as a function of the
drop height and gravitational acceleration. This roller coaster has a drop that is 47
m tall, and since we are currently on Earth, we will plug in g as 9.81 m/s2.
This gives a final speed at the bottom of the drop of 30.4 m/s, or about 109 km/h.
If we want to know the acceleration of the train during the drop, then we can draw a
vector for the acceleration due to gravity, and we can break it up into two components:
1 parallel to the track and 1 perpendicular to the track.
The vector component parallel to the track represents the acceleration of the train,
and it is equal to g*sin(θ), where θ is the angle of the track.
The steeper the track is, the faster the acceleration will be, and if θ is equal to 90 degrees,
then the train will essentially be in a freefall. For this coaster though, the maximum track
angle is 65 degrees, and we can calculate the acceleration as 8.9 m/s2, or about 0.9
g’s. At this rate, the train will take about 3.5
seconds to reach its top speed at the bottom of the drop, which would look something like
this from the view of the passengers. The maximum g-force that the passengers will
experience at the bottom of the drop is 4.2 g’s, which is calculated using the principle
of centripetal acceleration. Centripetal acceleration, ac, is equal to
v2/r, where v is the speed of the train and r is the radius of curvature of the track.
If we take acceleration due to gravity and add on v2/r at that same point, then we will
have the total g-force that the passengers feel as the train pulls out of the drop.
In this case, the speed of the train is 30.4 m/s and the radius of curvature is 29 m, resulting
in a total acceleration of 41.6 m/s2 or 4.2 g’s.
Similar calculations can be applied to the vertical loop, and we will find that the maximum
g-force at the bottom of the loop is 3.5 g’s, and the minimum g-force at the top of the
loop is 0 g’s. This means that the passengers will experience
a brief moment of weightlessness as the train passes around the apex.
I’m not going to dive any deeper into the physics here, but if you want to know more
about how vertical loops work and how they are designed, then I recommend checking out
my video on non-circular loops which explains the underlying physics and calculus.
But now that we have a good basic understanding of how roller coasters work, let’s see what
would happen if we built this exact same roller coaster on the surface of Mars.
Although the train would be lifted to the same height of 47 m, it will gain 62% less
gravitational energy than it did on Earth because the gravitational acceleration is
62% lower here. This means that the train will be travelling
slower at the bottom of the drop after the gravitational energy is converted to kinetic
energy, however the decrease in speed is not linearly proportional to the decrease in energy.
As we saw before, the speed at the bottom of the drop can be calculated using v=sqrt(2*g*h),
where speed is proportional to the square root of g.
Plugging in our height of 47 m and gravitational acceleration of 3.71 m/s2, we find that the
maximum speed is 18.7 m/s, or 67 km/h. That’s about 39% slower than the maximum
speed on Earth, which comes from the fact that 1 minus the square root of g on Mars
divided by g on Earth is equal to 0.39. This also tells us that the train will take
about 61% longer to reach the bottom of the drop, at just under 6 seconds, which would
look something like this. The simulation of the roller coaster on Mars
probably looks unnatural to you, and it might even make you feel a little uncomfortable
since we are accustomed to the gravity on Earth.
But not only does the coaster look unnatural, it would also feel unnatural to ride because
of the lower forces. The g-force values themselves would actually
be the same as on Earth, with 4.2 g’s at the bottom of the drop, 3.5 g’s at the bottom
of the loop, and 0 g’s at the top of the loop, however g-force is relative to gravitational
acceleration. The base measurement of 1 g on Earth corresponds
to an acceleration of 9.81 m/s2, but 1 g on Mars corresponds to an acceleration of 3.71
m/s2. And because force is equal to mass times acceleration,
the passengers will experience 62% less force throughout the entire ride compared to the
identical roller coaster back on Earth. It’s interesting to note, though, that if
you feel weightless on a certain part of the ride on Earth, then you will also feel weightless
at the same point on Mars because 0 g’s still means zero acceleration and zero force.
But since roller coasters on Mars would produce lower forces overall and they would also travel
quite a bit slower than their Earth counterparts, they probably would not be very exciting for
humans raised on Earth, aside from being located on another planet.
This would not be the case for humans raised on Mars though, since they would be accustomed
to living in lower gravity. If a person born and raised on Mars were to
ride a roller coaster on their home planet, they would perceive the exact same g-forces
as a person born and raised on Earth riding the same roller coaster on their home planet.
The difference in gravity only becomes apparent when we have humans travelling from one planet
to another, since the actual force magnitudes would be quite different.
And while a human from Earth might find a Martian roller coaster to be somewhat boring,
it would be extremely dangerous for a human from Mars to visit a theme park on Earth because
the forces would be more than 2.5 times what they are used to, and they would probably
black out on just about any roller coaster. This is something to keep in mind for the
future coaster enthusiasts on Mars who want those interplanetary credits.
Now, at this point, you may be wondering about those launched roller coasters that I briefly
mentioned earlier, and what would happen if we built one of those on Mars.
Most of the launch systems that are used for roller coasters rely on the principles of
pneumatics, hydraulics, and electromagnetism instead of gravity, and these systems would
be able to launch a train to the same speed on Mars as they do on Earth.
Since the amount of kinetic energy that they deliver is not dependent on gravitational
acceleration, using a launch system on Mars is one way that we could create a faster ride
and a more intense experience. However, we will probably never see a powerful
strata-launched coaster like Red Force or Top Thrill Dragster on Mars, since the ride
would need to be more than 2.5 times taller in order to convert all the kinetic energy
into gravitational energy. If we were to build an exact replica of Top
Thrill Dragster, the launch would accelerate the train nearly 4 times faster than Mars
gravity, and it would have enough speed to reach a height of 340 m.
It simply would not be practical to build a roller coaster this tall on any planet,
and I think it’s far more likely that we would see a more traditional roller coaster
with an added launch like the Incredible Hulk at Universal Orlando.
In this case, the launch speed could even be adjusted to provide varying levels on intensity
depending on whether the passengers are accustomed to Earth gravity or Mars gravity.
So now that we’ve taken a look at how gravity would affect the physics of roller coaster
on Mars, there’s only one more thing that we need to consider before wrapping up the
video, and that’s the atmosphere. At the surface of Mars, the atmosphere is
about 98% less dense than it is on Earth, and it is not suitable for humans to breathe.
The environment is also very dry with frequent dust storms, which would make it difficult
to operate and maintain a roller coaster outdoors. The wind forces are actually quite negligible
on Mars because the air is so thin, even though the average wind speed is higher than it is
on Earth, but the extremely fine dust would cover the entire ride and possibly cause moving
parts to seize. For these reasons, it would likely be necessary
for any Martian roller coaster to be built inside a pressurized building or tunnel with
similar atmospheric conditions to Earth. Unfortunately, this would detract from the
novelty of riding a roller coaster on another planet, but it would be necessary to protect
the passengers and the ride itself from the harsh environment.
And of course, this would have zero impact on the low gravity physics of the ride, so
I’m confident that the experience would still be something out of this world. Hey everyone, I hope you enjoyed today’s more
abstract topic about roller coasters on Mars. Please consider subscribing if you want to
see more videos from this channel, and don’t forget to hit the bell to get notified as
soon as new one comes out. If you want to help support the channel and
future projects, then you can also check out my Patreon page where Patrons get early access
to videos and other content. As always, thanks for watching, and I’ll
see you in the next one.

93 thoughts on “Would Roller Coasters Work on Mars?”

  1. Art of Engineering says:

    Would you board a rocket and travel through space to visit a theme park on Mars? 🚀

  2. EyesOfByes says:

    Don't give Elon any ideas….

  3. william davey says:

    First comment

  4. BlueElite says:

    would be very risky to wear a spacesuit or use pressurized cars due to the immense vibrations and shaking of the ride. albeit Six Flags Off Planet sounds cool

  5. EyesOfByes says:

    So the obvious next video is: "What if Cooper built a roller coaster on the planets and in the black hole?"

  6. Joel Tailor says:

    Earth: Perfectly habitable, no extra machinery requires to survive.
    Mars: No oxygen, requires complex machinery for survival.
    Conclusion: Human is curious animal with no directions.

  7. The Joy Sequence says:

    This is really interesting! Well made and explained too

  8. J03 MAN says:

    Why would you build a roller coaster inside a pressurized chamber? I can understand enclosing it to prevent dust contamination but i would assume all martians would have their own space suits anyway so why would you have to pressurize the ride? Why introduce way more aerodynamic drag and environmental control expenses when you could just design a ride that requires a space suit to ride?

  9. MatchTerm says:

    Elon Musk: don't fucking move

  10. Lilz May 2005 says:

    Great video!😀

  11. Another Swiss Youtube User says:

    12:58 I see what you did there…

  12. TT Rides says:

    If it doesn't i'm not going to mars, sorry elon

  13. TT Rides says:

    We can make powered coasters, just imagine… a planet with only powered coasters…

  14. bu3skoor77 says:

    Elon Musk: Hire this Guy.

  15. Markus Müller says:

    Humans: not living on mars

    Also humans: Let's see if rollercoasters would work

  16. gissneric says:

    We all guessed wrong. It's LITERALLY out of this world LOL! I always picture Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall when they were exposed to Mars air and they all swell up.

  17. Jokertyf says:

    At 6:01, your math is right, but your vector for centripetal acceleration is pointing the wrong way. The centripetal acceleration is the net acceleration, comprised of acceleration due to gravity (facing the opposite way) and acceleration due to the normal force of the car by the track. The magnitude of that normal force is indeed the weight of the car + mass * centripetal acceleration.

  18. Arcticx369 says:

    Elon Musk: Lets talk about that.

  19. Silacide Squad says:

    Imagine the reaction of someone from mars that does a freefall on earth

  20. AlfDoesStuff says:

    Such an underappreciated channel

  21. PastTime777 says:

    They're going to put plants and water on Mars, bring back the atmosphere. The problem is, this will take hundreds of years.

  22. C. Goldborn says:

    This is the type of channel where they ask questions that have crossed your mind before but almost no one seems to try or know the answer to

    I love this channel

  23. Zach Maready says:

    Finally, that stuff iI learned Algebra class is used for something!

  24. gerardnll2 says:

    What if the coaster had the same lift altitude but smaller loops? That would make the g’s higher, right? Or a launch coaster with smaller loops/hills. If we are looking for thrill and g’s, thats the way right? we won’t get high altitudes but…

  25. Alex P says:

    I'm going to wait for the roller coaster on the sun

  26. David Fourman says:

    The way you say "coaster" is so… Canadian.

  27. jonathan smith says:

    I can't wait to wake up at 8 in the morning and get to my office.

  28. First Last says:

    Ok, just go to work, time to work on that project.

    watches this video

  29. Avery the Cuban-American says:

    That would give the aliens something fun to do

  30. OnePieceNation says:

    Any rollercoaster makes me feel uncomfortable.

  31. JetPackJan says:

    3:17 should have said mass instead of weight.
    The weight of the train does affect the speed since it is proportional to the gravitational constant which is different between the planets.
    The mass of the train doesn't affect the speed.

  32. Wyndham Coffman says:

    I can see powered coasters becoming a major prerequisite for coasters on other planets.

  33. JetPackJan says:

    @8:05 except audio volume would be a lot less, probably only 1% or so with the much lower air density

  34. DestinedPotato says:

    So Indoor coasters would work the best on Mars. Since the whole point of them is that they are indoors which is a part of the ride experience.

    So rides like:
    Space Mountain at Disney, Verbolten at Busch gardens and The Walking Dead ride (Formerly X no way out) at Thorpe Park would be perfect.

    Any way great vid!

  35. Mister Hat says:

    A decade? Inevitable? Yeah… You just screwed your credibility.

  36. Walt Lonsdale says:

    It'll never happen

  37. John Gosbee says:

    The reason you black out is lack of pressure to push blood "up hill" against G's. But, the size and strength of the heart is not really dependent on the effort (exercise) to move blood up into brain. That is, the heart would not get weaker or smaller because it was in Martian gravity. Now, the overall core and leg strength would be affected (smaller muscle mass needed to stand, walk, and stabilize).

  38. robert moore says:

    main thing im thinking watching this is i always thought most modern roller coasters had powered carts to maintain the speed, rather than relying on gravity.

    even if this isnt the case on earth as i thought, would it not be a solution on mars? the example where it would have to be made 300 metres high to balance out. that seems to only be the case when using just gravity to decelerate / accelerate again. if we add more forces, eg a kers system which would take the energy on the way up and use it to give a kick on the way back down. could you not build a ride with similar speeds to earth?

  39. Andrew Miller says:

    But wait, if it will have less speed, then how will it be able to make it through the loop? On earth it is 64 mph or something, and then on Mars it was in the 40’s so it wouldn’t be able to go through the full loop. Someone plz explain

  40. Andrew Tyberg says:

    Great video!

  41. Joe Cox says:

    Hi Art of Engineering! Just subscribed to your channel, and love your videos. 😁 I do have a request: can you please do a video about the science behind "drop tower" style rides (not like "Tower of Terror") but rather like the Mega Drop? Thanks!

  42. Howard Delovitch says:

    I'd like to see What we Can Do…as Martians , which Will Not be Human anymore once they leave , they are "proto-martians" or Patient Zero , Batch A.
    Do NOT take GOD for You are now Gods. Leaving behind and , hopefully, what we become……is a Lot Less Dumb. Stupid ISN'T as Stupid DIES in Space. Space Forrest Gump in "Space Forced". Willful Suspension of Disbelief is " Voluntarily Deep-Faked ". GOD isn't your Co-Pilot anymore. You are Alone , Beyond the Horizons of a Dying Race …soon to be extinct. Abandoning Dead Weight , we know……it wasn't The Rollercoasters that caused it , so LEAVE GOD and "We'll talk about Roller Coasters" when the Time Comes…… Deal? – .Halvard B. Underfoot , futurist.

  43. Luminescent (Official) says:

    How did you draw the models and run the simulations?

  44. Jack K says:

    Looks this channel is great, informative and has a TON of potential, but you guys can’t expect to grow if you’re averaging one post a month. Not only that but you need to diversify your content. You’ve now made 9 videos about amusement park rides… engineering is not just about constructing rollercoasters….

  45. Grady Shoemaker says:

    You say that building a 1000-foot tall roller coaster would be impractical, but one thing you neglected to mention is that coaster support structures would not need to be nearly as robust under the lower gravity of Mars, meaning building a coaster of that height would be much less expensive and cumbersome than on Earth. I think it's very possible that roller coasters on Mars could be just as intense as their Earth counterparts.

  46. holy trolly says:

    Nobody :
    Not a single living soul:
    Art of Engineering: Would a Roller coaster work on Mars 🤔

  47. noname117spore says:

    I’d argue that there’s a bit of a flaw with the argument here, and that’s that we’re assuming the coaster designs on the two worlds would stay the same (for lift hill rides). As long as humans on Mars still retain most of the G tolerance abilities of humans on Earth then this doesn’t have to be the case. Which means that, although a Martian coaster would be slower for its height, one could always build it with tighter turns, inversions, drops, and air time hills than those built in real life; achieving the same forces.

    And Mars has a second advantage as well: you can build higher more easily there. Less gravity means less forces on the support structure, allowing for a taller ride.

    So would a Martian coaster be less thrilling than an earth-based coaster? It would be slower, but if you designed it well there should be no difference in the forces department. I’m going to say “maybe?”

    I’m also wondering if air time is easier to create and sustain on Mars or not.

  48. Isobel Jones says:

    I clicked so fast.

  49. Marshall Studios says:

    No I can't

  50. Marshall Studios says:

    I am 8

  51. WypmanGames says:

    low gravity
    low speed from going down so lifthills either massive or it wont work
    but a launched coaster can get speed

    and just think off the crazy airtime you would get in low gravity

  52. AV dE says:

    Did you make the NL2 model yourself? Because damn that vertical loop looked good

  53. sfgamfanboy says:

    A person accustomed to mars gravity comes to earth and rides intimidator 305. Yikes😂

  54. Matthew Trevett says:

    Entubed rollercoasters look particularly strange. Snakelike, perhaps.

  55. Justin says:

    no limits 2 nice

  56. Bill Cook says:

    Great question and I loved the videos. I am curious about atmospheric friction on roller coasters on Earth, and if essentially removing that would have a meaningful impact on ride speeds. Oh, and to be annoying guy – there’s not a chance in hell of humans living on Mars in the conceivable future.

  57. Timothy Stark says:

    That would need air dome covers that theme parks.

  58. Jordan Klein says:

    With lower gravity to slow down a ride on hills I have to imagine a Mars launch coaster would make something like maverick look tame.

  59. GFTheWriter says:

    11:03 Bu- but… Red Force is not a Strata Roller Coaster… It doesn't reach 400 feet in height… Therefore, not a Strata…. But… If you ask if it is a Giga or not…. Oh, boi. I can feel the heat in the argument by the enthusiasts.

  60. Chris says:

    Even a few minutes in, I want to thank you for this video – it addresses the age-old question of "Why did they remove the loop from Son of Beast?"

  61. Eric Bailey says:

    Just imagine if someone built steel vengeance on Mars. The airtime would be insane.

  62. Stormwatcher says:

    Someone would have to come up with some low-gravity amusement rides.

  63. Caden Pavlovcic says:

    Now, do a similar video but with a heavier planet than Earth.

  64. Kings Dominion Network says:

    Nobody:

    Eltoro ryan In 2080: saah dudes we riding roller coasters on mars

  65. Memesworld :3 says:

    Now aliens can experience rollercoaster

  66. Doug C says:

    What program did you use to show the perspective of people on the coaster?

  67. Lucas264 says:

    I have absolutely no clue what this guy is saying.

  68. Shane Fitzgerald says:

    Wot?

  69. Nathan Weatherly says:

    But would it be a B&M?

  70. Füchschen says:

    What about friction?
    Does it have any impact on if the same rollercoaster could finish a full circle?

  71. Kevin Deschênes says:

    Your content quality is out of this world, keep it up!

  72. Ford Rollhaus says:

    Just a note: Red force is not a strata coaster.

  73. Coaster capital says:

    This is stupid, everything is stupid.

  74. Earl Larrabee says:

    The only thing not mentioned is friction. On mars clearly there would be less drag (unless coaster is indoors) but…wouldn't Martian roller coasters experience different amounts of friction while travelling through all the elements due to lower speeds? Considering the differences in gravity and velocity (and the weight of the coaster train itself) Wouldn't cloned coasters on mars have much more difficulty reaching the end of the track?

  75. Earl Larrabee says:

    One thing you could do on mars in order to have more intense forces is introduce sharper turns, peaks, and valleys. You could change the track radius to have riders experience 6 g's on mars which would end up feeling more like 4 gs on earth. Imagine how crazy those track elements would look.

  76. Jeff Effery says:

    BUILD AN SLC ON MARS

  77. Phantasia Coasters says:

    A low to the ground lauch coaster like Taron should work well in the Martian environment right? It won't have to go very high yet still gain a lot of momentum from the launches

  78. Insane Coasters says:

    Unrelated to the videos but these drone shots are INCREDIBLE. Almost as good as the video 🙂

  79. Television says:

    So. BIGGER DROPS!?

  80. Gamer Gang says:

    is it planet coaster?

  81. Christian G. Coasters says:

    Make our solar system's longest airtime hill.

  82. Hamartian says:

    You'd get a shit ton of airtime tho

  83. Daniel Hermes says:

    6:57 how bout the way less denser atmosphere on Mars reducing energy loss duo to friction?🤔

  84. yoyo 94 says:

    Ferrari World on Earth, Tesla World on Mars

  85. Harry Shrager says:

    I feel like a great fit for mars would be compact but intense roller coasters, such as the Intamin Mega-lites, Mack LSMs, Gerstlauer Infinities, or maybe even an RMC Raptor. The lower gravity would result in lower top speeds and less stress on the track, while still allowing for a fun and forceful ride experience if done right, in my opinion.

  86. Jessica Ying says:

    Math

  87. Walter Clements says:

    Bro yeah it’s gonna work 😎😎😎

  88. basti0007 says:

    1:50 Any roller coaster is just using gravity with lifthills or launches? What about powered roller coasters? 😉

  89. Faith Fridayigbinosun says:

    Wow amazing content
    New friend here let support each other

  90. TheCoasterCompleater says:

    Can you do Derren Brown’s Ghost Train?

  91. Paul says:

    When is your new video going to be ready??????

  92. chain3519 says:

    Needs more attention

  93. GigaG11 says:

    “Roller coasters on Mars could be less forceful”

    B&M: invests in SpaceX

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